Archive for the ‘Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches’ Tag

Beloved of God: Worship Supplement 2000   9 comments

Worship Supplement 2000 Spine

Above:  The Spine of Worship Supplement 2000

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor




Beloved of God:  Let us draw near with a true heart, and confess our sins to God our Father, asking Him, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to grant us forgiveness.

Worship Supplement 2000, page 1



In July 2013 I wrote twenty-one posts in the U.S. Lutheran Liturgy series here at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.  Now, almost two years later, I return to that series with this entry, in which I turn to the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC).  Some historical background is essential to placing this denomination within the context of U.S. Lutheranism.

I recall an expression I heard while growing up in United Methodism in southern Georgia, U.S.A.

There are Baptists then there are Baptists,

I learned.  The same principle applies to Confessional Lutherans.  The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) is conservative, but the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), with German immigrant origins, and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), with Norwegian immigrant roots, stand to its right.  To their right one finds the Church of the Lutheran Confession.

The LCMS has experienced occasional schisms, mostly to its right.  (Most denominational schisms have occurred to the right, not the left, for they have usually happened in the name of purity, not breadth, of doctrine.)  The Orthodox Lutheran Conference (OLC) broke away from the LCMS in 1951, citing doctrinal drift in the form of the first part of the Common Confession (1950) with The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960).  The OLC experienced subsequent division, reorganizing as the Concordia Lutheran Conference in 1956.  Some congregations became independent, others defected to the WELS in 1963, and others joined the Lutheran Churches of the Reformation, another LCMS breakaway group, in 1964.

The Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America (1872-1967, although inactive from 1966 to 1967), was an umbrella organization of Confessional Lutheran denominations.  It member synods varied over time, with some denominations leaving it due to doctrinal differences, but it consisted of four synods toward the end.  Those were the LCMS, the ELS, the WELS, and the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (SELC).  The WELS and the ELS departed in 1963, after years of condemning the LCMS of consorting with heretical Lutheran denominations, such as the 1930-1960 and 1960-1987 incarnations of The American Lutheran Church.  The SELC merged into the LCMS, becoming the SELC District thereof, in 1971.

The Church of the Lutheran Confession, formed in 1960, attracted members from the LCMS, the Concordia Lutheran Conference, the ELS, and primarily from the WELS.  Its raison d’etre was to oppose unionism, or ecumenism with alleged heretics, and to stand for pure doctrine, as it understood it.  That purpose continues, as the official website of the denomination attests.


Although some CLC pastors have prepared liturgies, the two official service book-hymnals of the denomination are The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and Worship Supplement 2000.  The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), a product of the former Synodical Conference, remains one of the most influential hymnals in U.S. Lutheranism.  The denominations which authorized it have published official successors to it–the LCMS (with its SELC District) in 1982 and 2006, the WELS in 1993, and the ELS in 1996.  Nevertheless, The Lutheran Hymnal remains in use in some congregations of those bodies as well as in the CLC.

Worship Supplement 2000 Cover

Above:  The Cover of Worship Supplement 2000

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Language and hymnody move along, however, hence the existence of Worship Supplement 2000.  The volume contains three services, a small selection of Psalms, and 100 hymns.  The book itself is a sturdy hardback measuring 23.4 x 15.5 x 1.8 centimeters, making it taller, wider, and thinner than my copy of The Lutheran Hymnal.  The paper is thick, of high quality, and the fonts are attractive and clear.

TLH and WS2000

Above:  My Copies of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and Worship Supplement 2000

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Worship Supplement 2000:  Services

The three services are Service of Word and Sacrament (Settings 1 and 2) and the Service of the Word.  The two Services of Word and Sacrament follow the same pattern:

  • Preparation for Worship–Entrance Hymn, Invocation, and Confession and Absolution;
  • The Service of the Word–Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Prayer of the Day, First Lesson, Psalm of the Day, Second Lesson, Creed (Nicene or Apostles’), Hymn of the Day, Sermon, Offertory, Offerings, Prayer of the Church, and the Lord’s Prayer (traditional or contemporary language); and
  • The Service of the Sacrament (except for the last two parts, optional most Sundays)–Sanctus, Words of Institution, Agnus Dei, Distribution, Thanksgiving, Hymn and Benediction.

Setting 1 is an updated version of the basic service from The Lutheran Hymnal.  Setting 2 is a more recent rite with different language.

A Service of the Word follows a similar pattern, minus the Holy Communion, of course:

  • Hymn
  • Invocation
  • Confession and Absolution
  • First Lesson
  • Second Lesson
  • Apostles’ Creed
  • Hymn of the Day
  • Sermon, Homily, or Bible Study
  • Prayers
  • Lords Prayer
  • Hymn
  • Benediction

As with other Confessional Lutheran worship resources, the church is “Christian,” not “catholic,” in the Creeds.

The Eucharistic rites, consistent with most Confessional Lutheran practice, lack the Canon, present in Roman Catholic and Anglican liturgies.

The theology of absolution of sin in Worship Supplement 2000 interests me.  I, as an Episcopalian of a certain stripe, accept the language “I absolve you” easily.  As with my fellow Episcopalians, there is a range of opinion regarding this matter among Lutherans.  Worship Supplement 2000 contains both the “I absolve you” form and the mere announcement of divine forgiveness.  This practice is consistent with the usage of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in its Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996) and with The Lutheran Hymnal (1941).  The two forms of absolution continues in most subsequent LCMS resources, although the Hymnal Supplement 98 (1998) provides only one absolution:

Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God to all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

–Page 6

Historic practice in most of the denominations which merged over time in phases to constitute the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was for the presiding minister to announce God’s forgiveness of sin.  With the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), however, the option of the minister forgiving sins entered the liturgy.  It has remained.  James Gerhardt Sucha’s unofficial supplement to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), The Service Hymnal:  A Lutheran Homecoming (2001) lacks the “I forgive you” language.

The practice in the WELS, however, is to use only the “I forgive you” form of the absolution.

Worship Supplement 2000:  Psalms

Portions of Psalms arranged topically fill pages 25-42 of the book.  The presentation of these texts is such that a congregation may either read, sing, or chant them.  The texts come from, in order, Psalms 24, 96, 81, 51, 118, 2, 51, 45, 91, 30, 100, 23, 66, 84, 38, 85, 146, and 121.

Worship Supplement 2000:  Hymns

Worship Supplement contains 100 hymns, #701-800.  The arrangement of these begins with the church year (#701-740) then moves to topics (frequently doctrines):

  • Worship and Praise (#741-748)
  • Baptism (#749-753)
  • Lord’s Supper (#754-755)
  • Redeemer (#756-763)
  • Church (#764-768)
  • Evangelism (#769-773)
  • Word of God (#774-775)
  • Justification (#776-779)
  • Ministry (#780-781)
  • Trust (#782-785)
  • Consecration (#786)
  • Morning (#787)
  • Stewardship (#788-789)
  • Marriage (#790-791)
  • Thanksgiving (#792-793)
  • Christ’s Return (#794-795)
  • Evening (#796)
  • Hymns of the Liturgy (#797-800)

Many of the hymns are absent from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) for various reasons, including chronology.  Thus some Brian Wren texts appear in Worship Supplement 2000.  However, certain hymns which were old in 1941 and absent from The Lutheran Hymnal are present.  So are some hymns which are present in The Lutheran Hymnal.  Their versions from 2000 contain updated translations and modernized pronouns.  I commend the editor for avoiding “seven-eleven” songs, which come from the shallow end of the theological gene pool and are popular with devotees of contemporary worship.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty TLH 1941

Above:  “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Praise to the Lord, the Almighty WS2000

Above:  The First Page of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” from Worship Supplement 2000

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Notice the updated language and the altered tune.

Worship Supplement 2000:  Acknowledgments and Indices

Worship Supplement 2000 ends with copyright acknowledgments and with indices.  There are two indices–first lines and hymn tunes.


Worship Supplement 2000, as a book, has much to commend it.  This statement applies to the quality of the binding, the thickness of the paper, and the readability of the fonts as much as to the contents.  I write this despite that, according the Church of the Lutheran Confession, I am probably going to Hell.  (And I think of myself as an observant Christian!)  The matters of my salvation, however, reside in the purview of God, not any denomination.









I have provided some documentation via hyperlinks.  A list of books I have used to prepare this post follows.

American Lutheran Hymnal.  Columbus, OH:  Lutheran Book Concern, 1930.

Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1993.

Christian Worship:  Supplement.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 2008.

Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication of the United Lutheran Church in America, 1918.

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.  St. Louis, MO:  MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc., 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Hymnal for Church and Home.  Third Edition.  Blair, NE:  Danish Lutheran Publishing House, 1938.

Hymnal Supplement 98.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1998.

Lutheran Book of Worship.  Minneapolis, MO:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1978.  Reprint, 1990.

The Lutheran Hymnal.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

The Lutheran Hymnary.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House.  1935.

Lutheran Service Book.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Lutheran Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982.  Reprint, 1986.

Service Book and Hymnal.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1958.  Reprint, 1961,

The Service Hymnal:  A Lutheran Homecoming.  Edited by James Gerhardt Sucha.  Boulder, CO:  Voice of the Rockies Publishing, 2001.

With One Voice:  A Lutheran Resource for Worship.  Minneapolis, MO:  Augsburg Fortress, 1995.

Worship Supplement.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1969.

Worship Supplement 2000.  Compiled and Edited by John C. Reim.  Eau Claire, WI:  Church of the Lutheran Confession, 2000.  Reprint, 2007.


Lord of Heaven and Earth: The Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)   13 comments

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

Above:  My Copies of the Lutheran Book of Worship Pew and Ministers Desk Editions (1978), the related Manual on the Liturgy (1979), the Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (1990) and The Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1981), July 22, 2013




Blessed are you,

Lord of heaven and earth.

In mercy for our fallen world

you gave your only Son,

that all those who believe in him

should not perish

but have eternal life.

We give thanks to you

for the salvation

you have prepared

for us through Jesus Christ.

Send now your Holy Spirit

into our hearts,

that we may receive our Lord

with a living faith

as he comes to us

in his holy supper.

Lutheran Book of Worship, Pew Edition (1978), page 70



This post, being Part XII of an ongoing series, flows from previous entries, links to which I have provided here:



Two merged denominations–The American Lutheran Church (TALC) (1960) and the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) (1962)–had formed via unions of the eight synods which had forged the Service Book and Hymnal (1958).  Meanwhile, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) was revising The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and the Synodical Conference (1872-1966/1967) was coming apart due to tensions within the federation.  Was the LCMS engaging in “improper relations” with certain Christian denominations?  (That sounds like a sexual offense warranting death by stoning in the Law of Moses!)

To be concise, the 1960s and the 1970s occurred and brought with them not only in regrettable hair styles and unforgivable clothing fashions, but also liturgical changes.  The best of these liturgical changes we call “liturgical renewal,” which semi-traditional worship partisans such as the author applaud for returning to older, lost practices while modernizing language.  On the other hand, some liturgical volumes from the time are far from graceful.  They are so 1970, as in the Presbyterian Worshipbook (

In LCMS politics, related to relations with other Christian (especially Lutheran) denominations, the 1969-1976 civil war ended with the conservatives in control at headquarters.  Many relatively liberal-minded people left to form the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (1976-1987), which went on to join TALC and the LCA to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).



A.  The Beginning

Liturgical revision began in the LCMS in the 1950s.  A sufficient amount of time had passed since 1941, given the expected lifespan of official hymnal-service books.  The LCMS, at its 1965 convention, resolved to join with other Lutheran denominations to share liturgically and musically with them as part of an effort to develop a common liturgy and hymnody.  Thus the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) came into being.  Representatives of three U.S. bodies–the LCMS, the LCA, and TALC–and two related bodies–the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches  (SELC) (which merged into the LCMS in 1971) and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada (a spin-off of TALC) got down to work in 1966.

Early in the ILCW’s existence LCMS and SELC representatives were not as active as were those of other bodies, for the LCMS and the SELC were completing their Worship Supplement (1969), what became of the hymnal revision project started in the 1950s:

More than a generation has passed since The Lutheran Hymnal first appeared in 1941.  The intervening years have brought many changes in Christian living that have led to new worship needs.  New concerns for social structures, colleges, armed forces, missions, the inner city, and racially or culturally conscious groups have raised a need for updating liturgical and hymnodic materials both as to language and form.

When this need first began to be felt, a thorough revision of The Lutheran Hymnal was planned and begun.  The project was abandoned several years ago in favor of a program designed to lead to an eventual all-Lutheran hymnal in English.  The present Worship Supplement was meanwhile chosen to supply the worship needs of the Church until the proposed long-range project could produce a more permanent hymnal….

–From the Foreward to Worship Supplement (1969), page 9

Ironically, the Worship Supplement foreshadowed the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) (1978) more than its LCMS counterpart, Lutheran Worship (LW) (1982).

B.  Worship Supplement (1969):  An Evaluation

Worship Supplement includes 93 hymns and 101 pages of liturgy.  The modernized language is mostly graceful, although the Communion service on pages 59-62 lacks poetic sensibilities.  This is how that ritual begins:

Minister:  We are here

People:  in the name of Jesus Christ.

All:  We are here because we are men–but we deny our humanity.  We are stubborn fools and liars to ourselves. We do not love God nor other people as we ought.  We war against life.  We hurt each other.  We are sorry for it and know we are sick from it.  We seek new life.

Minister:  Giver of life, heal us and free us to be men.

All:  Holy Spirit, speak to us.  Help us to listen, for we are very deaf.  Come, fill this moment.

Yet there is much positive about the book.  For example:

  • It moves the Creed from before the sermon to afterward, improving the flow of the service.
  • It establishes three readings from the Bible as the norm in Sunday worship.
  • It provides three options for the Canon/Prayer of Thanksgiving in the Eucharistic rites.  Among these is a variant of the prayer from the Service Book and Hymnal (1958).
  • The Nicene Creed is in the first-person plural, thereby following the Greek text.
  • The Church is “catholic” (without so much as an asterisk or a footnote) in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.

C.  Contemporary Worship Booklets and Prayer Book Influences

From 1969 to 1976 the ILCW prepared and published a series of booklets containing provisional liturgies.  This was the Contemporary Worship series.

Lutheran liturgical scholar Philip H. Pfatteicher, on page 10 of his Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (1990), quotes a brash, clunky prayer from Contemporary Worship 6:  The Church Year:  Calendar and Lectionary (1973):

O God, give us bread to nourish our bodies, and in Christ give us the bread of eternal life, that in him we may grow and thrive and serve; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

That prayer, which became dated quickly, did not survive long enough to become part of the LBW, fortunately.

One purpose of softcover authorized liturgical resources is to experiment during the transitional period en route to the next hardcover service book.  The ILCW and the LCMS did this contemporaneous with The Episcopal Church as it went through Prayer Book revision.  In both cases experimentation led to much that was meritorious and retained in some form in the next service book and to much that revisers wisely left abandoned by the proverbial road.  And Lutheran and Episcopalian revisers influenced each others’ work; the LBW and The Book of Common Prayer (1979) have much shared content.

The LCMS rejected the LBW and prepared its own revision, Lutheran Worship (1982), based on the ILCW texts.



The LBW exists in three editions:

  1. the Pew Edition, or the “Green Book,” which includes the hymnal;
  2. the Accompaniment Edition; and
  3. the Ministers Edition, with all the rubrics and liturgical words.

I write this assessment based on (1) and (3).

The differences between Pew and Ministers Editions include the following:

  1. The Psalter is partial in the Pew Edition and full in the Ministers Edition.
  2. The Ministers Edition contains the Ash Wednesday and Holy Week Services; the Pew Edition does not.
  3. The Pew Edition contains two Canons/Prayers of Thanksgiving; the Ministers Edition has four, including a variation on the 1958 text.

The summary of the four forms of the Canon/Prayer of Thanksgiving follows:

  1. Eucharistic Prayer I (in the Pew and Ministers Editions) is a revision of the text from Contemporary Worship 2:  Services–The Holy Communion (1970).
  2. Eucharistic Prayer II (in the Pew and Ministers Editions) elaborates on Eucharistic Prayer I.  The roots of this form (II) go back to 1975.
  3. Eucharistic Prayer III (in the Ministers Edition), which does not require congregational participation, is a slight revision of the prayer from the Service Book and Hymnal (1958).
  4. Eucharistic Prayer IV (in the Ministers Edition) is based on a third century text by Hippolytus.

The LBW resembles the 1979 Prayer Book with chanting added throughout.  The LBW also draws on the best of liturgical renewal from the 1960s and 1970s, such as the Calendar reforms of the Roman Catholic Church.  As in the LCMS Worship Supplement (1969), the Creed follows the sermon, the Nicene Creed is in the first-person plural, and the Church is “catholic” without an asterisk or a footnote.

There is also Lutheran Book of Worship:  Occasional Services (1982), which I do not not own.  Based on what I have read, it would tell me how to install church officers, dedicate a church, lay a cornerstone, et cetera.



The Common Service antecedents of the LBW are obvious.  Yet the LBW corrects some of the great flaws of that 1888 body of liturgy, such as the placement of the Creed relative to the sermon.  Thus the LBW is superior to the unaltered Common Service.

I plan to write about more “nuts and bolts” while comparing and contracting the LBW with the LCMS variant, Lutheran Worship (1982), in the next post.







Commission on the Liturgy and Hymnal, The.  Service Book and Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  United Lutheran Publication House, 1958.

Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church.  Philadelphia, PA:  The Board of Publication of The United Lutheran Church in America, 1917, 1918.

Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, The.  The Lutheran Hymnal.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Ministers Desk Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

__________.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Pew Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship for Provisional Use.  Contemporary Worship 2:  Services–The Holy Communion.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Education, Lutheran Church in America, 1970.

Lutheran Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982.

Melton, J. Gordon.  Encyclopedia of American Religions.  4h. Ed.  Washington, DC:  Gale Research, Inc., 1993.

Pfatteicher, Phiip H.  Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990.

Pfatteicher, Philip H., and Carlos R. Messerli.  Manual on the Liturgy:  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1979.

Reed, Luther D.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Service of the Lutheran Church in America.  Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1947.

__________.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Liturgy of the Lutheran Church in America.  2d. Ed.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1959.

Stulken, Marilyn Kay.  Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1981.

Worship Supplement.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1969.

I also found some PDFs helpful:

Schalk, Carl.  ”A Brief History of LCMS Hymnals (before LSB).”  Based on a 1997 document; updated to 2006.  Copyrighted by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Stuckwisch, D. Richard.  “The Missouri Synod and the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.”  Lutheran Forum, Volume 37, Number 3 (Fall 2003), pages 43-51.



Only One Reading Required: The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and Its Predecessors, 1850-1940   13 comments


Above:  Saint John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Image Source = Wrokic





We would gladly behold the day when the One, Holy, Catholic, Christian Church shall use one Order of Service, and unite in one Confession of Faith.

–From the Preface to the Common Service (1888); Quoted in Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (1917), page 308


We believe the average churchgoer will thank us for not putting in more than one Scripture lesson.

–The Editors of the Book of Hymns (1917), in Northwestern Lutheran, May 1918



In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part I (, I wrote about the process which culminated in the unveiling of the Common Service in 1888.  I chose not to write about that liturgy because I had already entered twenty-four pages of writing from a composition book.  In U.S. Liturgy, Part II (, I focused on the Common Service.  In U.S. Liturgy, Part III (, I wrote about it in The United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962) and The American Lutheran Church (1930-1060).   In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part IV (, I focused on The Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church (1860-1962).  In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part V (, I wrote about Finnish-Americans.  In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part VI (, I turned my attention to the Missouri Synod.  In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part VII (, I wrote about Norwegian-Americans.  In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part VIII (, I focused on Danish-American synods.  Now this leg of my journey through the history of the topic nears its completion with Part IX, in which I write about the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

I have been studying this material closely, trying to record information accurately as I have reviewed primary and secondary sources.  This has required a commitment of much time, for there are so many synods about which to read.  And, since I grew up United Methodist in southern Georgia, U.S.A., in the Baptist Belt, Lutherans were scarce, if present at all, when I was quite young.  My spiritual journey has taken me into The Episcopal Church.  Anglicanism and Lutheranism have many theological and liturgical similarities and considerable theological overlap, but my adopted vantage point is still one outside of Lutheranism.  If I have misstated anything, I can correct it.

The material is, by its nature, complicated.  I have tried to organize and format it for maximum ease of reading and learning, however.  So, without further ado, I invite you, O reader, to follow the proverbial bouncing balls with me.



The First German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin (FGELSW) organized in 1850.  Its real founder was the Reverend John Muehlhauser, whom the United Rhine Mission had sent to the United States in 1837.  The Synod, which dropped “First” from its name in 1853, benefited greatly from missionaries whom the Basel Missionary Society sent, as did the Minnesota and Michigan Synods.

The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Michigan and Other States (ELSMIOS) formed in 1860.  Its real founder was the Reverend Friedrich Schmidt, whom the Basel Missionary Society had sent.

The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Minnesota and Other States (ELSMNOS) came in existence in 1860, midwifed by the the Wisconsin Synod.  The Minnesota Synod’s real founder was the Reverend Johann Christian Friedrich “Father” Hayer, a missionary to the U.S. frontier and to India prior to 1860.

The Wisconsin Synod became a center of gravity within U.S. Confessional Lutheranism, as we will see.  We will also see that some Confessional Lutherans were more Confessional than others.  There were (and are) Lutherans then there were (and are) Lutherans.

The Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota Synods helped to form the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918).  The General Council broke away from the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States of America (1820-1918), which the founders of the General Council perceived had become too liberal and permissive.  But the basic problem of with an obsession for doctrinal purity is that some of the “pure” are purer than others, so more schisms ensue.  Thus the Wisconsin Synod left the General Council in 1869, followed by the Minnesota Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Illinois (1847-1880) in 1871, then by the Michigan Synod in 1888.

The General Council, more conservative than the General Synod, faced several controversies, starting in 1868:

  1. Some clergymen were alleged to have preached Premillennial doctrine regarding the Second Coming of Christ.
  2. Certain members belonged to secret societies.
  3. Some ministers had preached in non-Lutheran churches and certain non-Lutheran clergymen had preached in Lutheran churches.
  4. And some non-Lutherans were taking the Holy Communion in Lutheran Churches.

The General Council dealt with the first point immediately, condemning Premillennialism an an error and affirming the Augsburg Confession (1530), Article XVII:

Our churches teach that at the end of the world Christ will appear for judgment and will raise all the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:2].  He will give the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but He will condemn ungodly people and the devil to be tormented without end [Matthew 25:31-46].

Our churches condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishment of condemned men and devils.

Our churches also condemn those who are spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed.

Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions–A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, 2d. Ed. (St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006), page 40

The General Council refrained from punishing its members who belonged to secret societies, preferring instead to educate them as to the error of their ways.  This decision did not satisfy hardliners.

And, in 1875, the General Council resolved that pulpit and altar fellowship should cease and desist.  Yet, by that point, several synods had defected and others had chosen not to affiliate, citing these controversies.



The Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, or the Synodical Conference for short, came into existence in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1872.  The charter members of the federation (not denomination) were:

  • the Missouri Synod (1847);
  • the Illinois Synod (1846), which merged into the Missouri Synod in 1880;
  • the Wisconsin Synod (1850);
  • the Minnesota Synod (1860);
  • the Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States (1818), which left after a decade, during a controversy regarding Predestination; and
  • the Norwegian Synod (1853), which left in 1883, also during the controversy regarding Predestination.

Later Synodical Conference developments included the following:

  • The Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States, having left the Synodical Conference, divided in 1882.  The breakaway Concordia Synod of Pennsylvania and Other States (1882-1886) joined the Synodical Conference before merging into the Missouri Synod.
  • The English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri and Other States (the English Synod of Missouri) (1888) joined in 1890.  It merged into the Missouri Synod in 1911.
  • The Michigan Synod left the General Council in 1888 and joined the Synodical Conference four years later.
  • The Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Synod (later the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches), formed in 1902, joined the Synodicial Conference in 1910.  The denomination merged into the Missouri Synod in 1971.
  • The German Evangelical Lutheran District Synod of Nebraska and Other States, formed by Wisconsin Synod pastors in 1904, joined six years later.
  • The Norwegian Synod, which left the Synodical Conference in 1883, found its unity with other Norwegian-American Lutherans.  Its remnant, The Evangelical Lutheran Synod (1918), joined the Synodical Conference in 1920.

The Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota Synods federated in 1892 as The Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Other States in 1892.  These three plus the Nebraska District (1904) merged to form a new denomination in 1917.  That body retained the federation’s name for two years, becoming the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin and Other States in 1919 then the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) in 1959.



The Wisconsin Synod and those Confessional Lutheran bodies similar to it worshiped primarily in their ancestral languages into the first few decades of the twentieth century.  The Missouri and Wisconsin Synods, for example, worked and worshiped primarily in German until the anti-German hysteria during World War I forced many members to hasten the transition to English.

The Wisconsin Synod published its first English-language hymnal-service book in 1911.  This was The Church Hymnal for Lutheran Service, with 115 hymns and four pages of liturgy.  The volume, out of print by 1923, was not impressive, but it was a start.

More lasting was the Book of Hymns (1917), with 320 hymns and sixteen pages of liturgy.  The Sunday service, simpler than those in other English-language Lutheran service books of the time, required only one reading from the Bible (as opposed to the customary two lessons).  Within a few years the process of creating the Synodical Conference’s classic Lutheran Hymnal (1941) was underway, and the WELS was on board.  However, when The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) debuted, it caused some opposition among certain WELS congregations, unaccustomed to such a formal service.



I have had to write about some complicated material, for that is the nature of portions of the U.S. Lutheran past.  All of these synods can become confusing quite quickly, can they not?  At least many of them converged and merged over time.  My strategy in presenting this material has been to do so in as clear a way as possible.  I hope that I have succeeded.

WELS service books in English were primitive before The Lutheran Hymnal (1941).  I wish I could write honestly that post-Lutheran Hymnal WELS worship resources were impressive, but I, having drafted that post long-hand already, know better.







Book of Hymns.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1917.  Reprint, 1932.

Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church.  Philadelphia, PA:  The Board of Publication of The United Lutheran Church in America, 1917, 1918.

Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions–A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.  2d. Ed.  Paul Timothy McCain, General Editor.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, The.  The Lutheran Hymnal.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

Melton, J. Gordon.  Encyclopedia of American Religions.  4h. Ed.  Washington, DC:  Gale Research, Inc., 1993.

Pfatteicher, Philip H., and Carlos R. Messerli.  Manual on the Liturgy:  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1979.

Stulken, Marilyn Kay.  Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1981.

Wentz, Abdel Ross.  The Lutheran Church in American History.  2d. Ed.  Philadelphia, PA:  The United Lutheran Publication House, 1933.

I also found some PDFs helpful:

Erickson, Anne.  “God Wants to Help Parents Help Their Kids.”  Pages 8-9 in The Lutheran Ambassador (April 10, 2001).

Marggraf, Bruce.  ”A History of Hymnal Changeovers in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.”  May 28, 1982.

Schalk, Carl.  ”A Brief History of LCMS Hymnals (before LSB).”  Based on a 1997 document; updated to 2006.  Copyrighted by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Zabell, Jon F.  “The Formation of Function of WELS Hymnals:  Further Conversation.”  For the National Conference of Worship, Music, and the Arts, July 2008.